– Watch this week’s episode here.
– Next week’s episode is NXT Takeover, so we’ll be doing a live thread, results and, of course, a Best and Worst Of. Make sure you’re here for that.
– Be sure you’re reading our retro recap of NXT season 3. Goldust and Aksana just got married, and there was a two part, 15-minute kissing contest. Seriously, read it.
– Comments, likes, shares and other things are appreciated.
Please click through for the Best and Worst of WWE NXT for September 4, 2014.
Worst: Alexa Bliss Might Not Be Ready For This
Disclaimer, because people get real upset if you criticize Alexa Bliss: I think she’s great. She’s young, athletic, about as objectively pretty as a tiny blonde cheerleader type can be and she’s obviously trying very, very hard. That said, two things:
1. WHERE THE F*CK IS ALEXA BLISS’S GLITTER??
Normally during her entrance she’ll stop at the top of the ramp, hold out her hands like she’s blowing a kiss and vomit glitter in a big cloud. It’s excellent, and her constantly-covered-in-glitter gag differentiates what would otherwise be a bland, “I love YOU, THE FANS” babyface. Bayley without the hugs and personality. A prettier Bayley who never had to try as hard. This week, Bliss stops at the top of the ramp and … curtseys. The hell is that? Does she have to stop glittering because Stardust spent a month blowing star confetti into Goldust’s mouth? NOT IMPRESSED, NXT.
2. She still doesn’t have any offense. She tries to turn her 450 feint off the ropes into an armdrag-to-Layla-rollup, but it’s clear that she’s not confident doing it, so it’s mostly Charlotte standing there going “okay, go” while Bliss does each part of the move individually. Position yourself on the ropes, stop. Grab the arm, stop. Front flip, land, stop. Armdrag, stop. Flip over into the pin, stop. The only way a move like that works is if you GO FOR IT. If you f*ck it up, just keep going for it. Flip and spin and land and roll and whatever else you’ve gotta do. Crash and burn if you’re gonna crash and burn, just look like you gave it your all.
The idea of NXT as “developmental” is really more in terms of character and crowd interaction than in wrestling these days. That’s what the Performance Center is for, right? Getting ring ready, so you can perform confidently in front of a crowd and work on all the intangibles that make you a WWE Superstar? We’re well past the days where a performer should be getting into an NXT ring and still be visibly working their way through moves. Bliss has a huge, huge upside, but she also probably needs six more months of hitting the ropes and not being afraid to fall.
Best: THE CUTTER!
Charlotte’s finish is called ‘Bow Down To The Queen,’ and I’m pretty sure I’ve complained about how dumb it sounds every time she’s done it. This week, though, she hits it and Tom Philips yells ‘THE CUTTER~!’ You’d expect him to follow it up with something like, “there’s that cutter that Charlotte calls BOW DOWN TO THE QUEEN,” but nope, ‘the cutter.’ They show it in a replay and it’s still just the cutter. On a show where the commentary is 50% recorded-in-post hype for Takeover, that’s a purposeful decision, right?
I’m a fan of dropping/changing the name, but I’m also a fan of the idea of her dropping it completely. It’s goofy-looking, has a goofy name, is goofy to set up and has an impact softer than most episodes of ‘Goof Troop.’ If she’s embracing being a Flair and is going to have Ric as her manager, she should be taking people out with the Figure Four. She’s good at it (aside from not understanding how reversing it works), and it’s not like the Miz needs a move beyond “distraction rollup.”
Best: KENTA (!!!!!!!!!!)
The highlight of my post-WrestleMania wrestling year so far was the NXT Takeover hype video advertising the debut of INTERNATIONAL SUPERSTAR KENTA. This is the magic of 2014 NXT, you guys: KENTA is debuting. He’s KENTA, and not ‘Hirohito Fuji.’ He’s an international superstar, not a mysterious ninja from the Land Of The Rising Sun. He’s a selling point, not a guy who shows up to lose to Bull Dempsey and we pop for him anyway because we recognize him. He’s IN HIS GEAR and THROWING KICKS in the highlight video. THIS IS HAPPENING, YOU GUYS. THIS IS REAL AND OH GOD MY CAPS LOCK IS BROKEN.
There’s still a chance they’ll repurpose Ultimo Dragon’s old Godzilla music, but right now everything’s happy and perfect. If he hits somebody with a GTS at Takeover I will just post ‘Ode To Joy’ and do full-on Kevin McAllister sliding, kneeling fist-pumps in front of my TV for a week.
Quick Worst, Though: ‘NXT Takeover’
I wish they’d call it something else, or at least Takeover 2. NXT loves to reference its own history, so you’ve got Tom Philips saying “the first thing happened at Arrival, the second thing happened at Takeover and now the third thing will happen WHEN NXT TAKES OVER THE WWE NETWORK!” Give the man something to work with.
Best: Tyson Kidd Is Everything
The Red Skull is so good right now. The four competitors in the NXT Championship match at 2akeover got “why do I think I’ll win” interview snippets throughout the show. Tyson Kidd’s is far and away the best, as he sets you up to think he’s complimenting his opponents only to pull it back and claim all their shit for himself. He’s the best high flyer in wrestling because of his time in the UK, has more heart than anyone because of his time in Japan, is super good-looking and is the most dangerous man walking the planet.
I wish they’d let him go on for another 30 minutes until he was like, F*CK YOU, I’M TYSON KIDD, I CAN FLY and threw himself through a window.
Best: Enzo Amore Invests In A Bucket Of Hair Removal Cream And Accidentally Assaults A Poodle (Because NXT Is The Best Show)
I can’t with this video.
If you need an example of why Enzo Amore’s become such a cult hero in places like With Spandex (and the entire Internet), use this. Somewhere Jodie Foster’s got tears in her eyes and is looking around for a poet.
– Cass is incredible here as the Nick Carraway-style narrator, witnessing the events through his iPhone while he records his muscles in the mirror and stares at Carmella’s boobs.
– The hair salon is named HAIR. COME ON.
– Enzo is the type of guy who preps for a hair vs. hair match by going to his friend (slash house show valet) Carmella’s hair salon and getting a METAL BUCKET FULL OF FICTIONAL, ACME-STYLE HAIR REMOVAL CREAM. It is a BUCKET OF BALDING ECTOPLASM that morphs into a bucket of shaving cream at the end of the show so he doesn’t spill it everywhere. And it’s in RICARDO RODRIGUEZ’S BUCKET. WHY DOES CARMELLA HAVE THIS CREAM, AND WHY DOES SHE HAVE ENOUGH TO CASUALLY FILL A FRIEND’S BUCKET. Does she have giant vats of the stuff in the back and toss people into it when they need a waxing? Is HAIR a power plant in Gotham City?
– Enzo accidentally proves the potency of the hair cream by dumping it onto a dog. A POODLE, no less, because FRANCE. I swear, if the match at Takeover ends with Marcus Louis sliding in and blasting Enzo in the face with a fully grown dog I will lose my shit.
Best/Worst: Keeping It In The Tank
This week’s one-hour episode of NXT had six matches. SIX. As you might expect, that means there was lots of perfectly fine wrestling happening, but nothing great.
And that’s how it should be, honestly. NXT Takeoverer is next week, so this week should be less about blowing everybody away and more about taking your time and clearly setting up your narratives. In the opening match, Charlotte gets a dominant win and gets a Hugplex from Bayley, who has seen herself as inferior for the entirety of her NXT run and is finally starting to confidently stand toe-to-toe with the people she admires. The main-event tag named new #1 contenders to the Ascension’s NXT tag team titles. Building blocks that make your matches at Takeover a little more important.
The main of Takeover is a fatal fourway for the NXT Championship, so all four men competed in singles matches … short, uneventful singles matches that existed to say, “hey WWE Universe, these guys are all good and could win next week.” The first was Tyler Breeze defeating Tye Dillinger, who even got a SUPER IMPORTANT SOUNDING entrance theme. Breeze won easily, as he does, but man, he really needs a new finish. You’ve built up the Beauty Shot enough to move it to a falsie, and give Breeze something iconic and impactful as his finish going forward. I don’t know why they didn’t bail on the Beauty Shot completely and let him win with that awesome superkick he does, but whatever.
Match #2 was Tyson Kidd getting a submission win over Adam Rose with the Sharpshooter. The crowd started chanting “Nattie’s better” during the move to make Kidd mad, but come on guys, you are f*cking blind if you think Natalya does a better Sharpshooter than Tyson Kidd. That’s like chanting ROCKY’S BETTER while Hiroshi Hase’s got it on.
Nobody needs these wins more than Kidd. The guy’s challenged for the NXT Championship several times and come up short, so there’s really not a good reason to put him in the match at all … you can have guys like Zayn challenge and fair a few times and be fine because they’re ‘NXT Developmental’ guys. There’s always the idea/illusion of “the future” in front of them. If Kidd challenges and loses a bunch, where’s he supposed to go? The guy’s almost a decade into his WWE career. If he loses, we don’t wonder where he goes next, we just wonder why Diego’s getting a string of singles wins on Raw and Kidd’s getting skunked by rookies on the Internet show.
Also, supplemental Best for tapping out Adam Rose. Rose gloating about his 42-0 win streak on Backstage Fallout this week demanded instant karma.
Match #3 was another important one: Sami Zayn getting (basically) a squash win. He faced Marcus Louis, one of my under-the-radar favorites, and it was the kind of match you might expect Zayn to wrestle on Raw. Louis not only evokes La Resistance with his gimmick, he WRESTLES like them. Lots of shoulderblocks and clotheslines and headlocks. Restholding people to death until he can hit his finish, whatever that is. Zayn got in some exciting offense, spent a few minutes on the ground looking like he was gonna throw up, then came back enough to drop Louis on his face and lock him into the Koji Clutch for a submission win.
It’s important because we see Zayn as the fan favorite who doesn’t have to win matches to be beloved, so he loses a lot of matches. Giving him strong wins over talent who are CLEARLY not at his level is a good call, even if making people look like a million bucks is his speciality. Also, hey, further establishing the Koji Clutch as a finish is great, too … now Sami’s got a tornado DDT, the Helluva Kick and the facebuster/Koji Clutch as believable finishes. When you’ve got to wrestle three guys and create an exciting, believable finishing sprint, it’s good to have a lot in your arsenal.
The final match is easy: Adrian Neville winning another strong title defense.
It feels like the championship is going to change hands at Takeover, so having Neville continue his Fighting Champion run by fairly, decisively trouncing CJ Parker is the way to go. As it stands now you’ve got:
– Tyler Breeze, with sincere-ironic fan support and a finish that can catch you out of nowhere
– Tyson Kidd, a deluded guy with an impressive resume who has failed a lot and is willing to do anything to succeed
– Sami Zayn, with sincere-sincere fan support, tons of heart and a gaggle of finishers who always loses the big one
– Adrian Neville, a fighting champ who might be tired from defending his belt all the time, but can gut it out with the best of them
That’s a compelling match, right? It’s pretty cool when months of storylines come together in a match that makes sense and could be won by ANYONE. It’s a lot better than John Cena going into a match with four people, having a 100% chance to win and the only drama being Michael Cole saying “25% CHANCE” over and over.
Worst: I Just Noticed That Marcus Louis Has Brodus Clay’s Tattoo And I Can’t Unsee It
1. Funkasauruses (Funkasaurii?) are changelings, and Brodus wasn’t fired, he just morphed into a stereotypical French guy.
2. That’s the mark of Planet Funk, and Louis is simply from the same species. They did say Brodus was the only Funkasaurus “in captivity.” Trouille est sur une lancée!
Best: The Vaudevillains
Veronica Lane asks Simon Gotch what he thinks about the Vaudevillains’ chances in the finals of the NXT Tag Team Number One Contenders Tournament, and his answer is, “EXCELSIOR~!”
I think they’re supposed to be bad guys because Aiden English was a bad guy, but … we’re supposed to love the Vaudevillains, right? Is there anything heelish about them? In theory, isn’t the Sin Cara/Kalisto team more heelish? Sin Cara’s being portrayed by the former fake Sin Cara and Kalisto ditched his chubby tag team partner and got him fired so he could upgrade and get another title shot*. The Vaudevillains are just weird dudes acting weird.
*yes, I know none of this is kayfabe accurate**
**shut up, you want the Vaudevillains to win, too
Best: The Ascension Get New Old Challengers
Worst: BOOO, BOOOOOOO
First things first, F*CK CARLISTO FOREVER, GO VAUDEVILLAINS.
(Yeah, Sin Cara and Kalisto make a lot more sense as #1 contenders, but man, I would’ve loved an Ascension/Vaudevillains match. Just two crazy guys screaming and doing e-fed occult attacks while the two dorkiest people employed by a major wrestling promotion pretend to be 1920s sideshow characters. That’s what pro wrestling is about. Maybe the trick to unseating the Ascension is to make them stop being super serious? Konnor’s already proven that he’s a sucker for a corny fan chant. If the Osirian Portal showed up and started trying to snake-hypnotize them with their bodies they’d probably lose in a heartbeat.)
Second things first, the tag main event was solid, but I’m still not digging Hunico as Sin Cara. He’s “better” in that he doesn’t screw up every time he steps into a ring, but he doesn’t have the original’s hypothetical grace and weightlessness. Original Sin Cara looked like he weighed 2 pounds and was held to the ground by the balls of his feet. Balls he injured, probably, but stay with me. He could occasionally turn on the gravity and hit you with something hard, whether it’s La Mistica or a dive to the outside or whatever. HuniCara is better at WWE style wrestling, but nothing he does has grace or weight behind it. His headscissors takedowns look labored and his swanton’s got NOTHING behind it. He leaps halfway across the ring and is still just grazing you with the top of his mask.
I don’t know. If anybody retains at Takeover 2, it should be The Ascension. It seems like a drag to keep the belts on them when they’re doing nothing, but if you want that title change to mean something, it’s gotta go to a team with momentum. You’re great at getting people behind your faces, NXT. Put that same effort into establishing a tag team beyond “we won a few matches and now ASCENSION” and you’ll get the team your product deserves.